Bacteriophages

One of the most recent and fastest growing areas of IPM control is the use of bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria. Commonly referred to simply as phages, they are natural components of the envi­ronment and are non-toxic to eukaryotes. That makes them much safer than chemicals. They are also specific to the particular bacterium that they target, so they are harmless to other desirable microbes. Phages are self-replicating and will do so only as long as the targeted host bacteri­um is present. Once the host is eliminated, the phage quickly degrades. Phage preparations are easily and effectively combined with chemical pesticides allowing them to be applied simultaneously and with no diminution of their effectiveness.

Compost Tea

Another newcomer to integrated pest management programs is the use of water-based, fermented compost preparations, commonly referred to as compost tea. The precise formulation is still in the early stages of development, with exact proportions of compost feedstocks, water, and added nutrients unknown. Even the fermentation time, most desirable pH, optimum temperature, and the best age of the composting material are still undefined.

While much more information about the formulation will undoubt­edly be forthcoming, greenhouse growers, turf specialists and golf course superintendents are exploring ways to utilize compost teas as foliage sprays and soil drenches to control plant diseases. It is the microorgan­isms in the tea that are responsible for the control of foliar diseases and the suppression of common turf pathogens. Depending upon the spe­cific composting material used, the tea can be manipulated to be domi­nated by either bacteria or by fungi. Which is preferred is determined by the host crop and by the soil type.